Page 164 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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Gordon is the abovecited book by Stanislawski.16 This meticu­
lous step-by-step read ing o f every Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew
item o f YaLaG’s prodigious ou tpu t elucidates a host o f p rob ­
lems. For example, Stanislawski settles a vexed question alluded
to by Barzel. A debate had raged between the scholars Gedaliah
Elkoshi and N.M. Gelber as to whether o r not Gordon was the
au tho r o f an 1877 German pamphlet advocating Palestine col­
onization. Stanislawski makes the telling point that when Gor­
don was attacked for being anti-Zionist, he wrote a long self-
justifying letter, a kind o f “spiritual testament,” to Shimon
Bernfeld (which Stanislawski analyzes in detail). In this letter
YaLaG would have had every reason to cite his au tho rsh ip o f
a Zionist pamphlet. T h e fact that he did not do so proves he
did not write i t .1
In surveying this literature one is brough t back time and again
to B renne r’s fine article .18 One point B renne r makes is that
Gordon has been underestim ated as a lyrical poet. Now, so
much o f that poetry was suffused with despondency because
o f the vicissitudes o f G o rdon ’s financial and professional h a rd ­
ships that one is inclined to highlight a certain “nihilism” in
his tone, particularly in his later life.19 Even Stanislawski, who
certainly stressed the positive in G o rdon ’s noble humanistic faith
and the basic consistency o f his ideological persuasion in the
teeth o f harrow ing criticism, chose as the title o f his book the
pessimistic title o f one o f G o rdon ’s best known poems, “
Le-M i
Ani AmelV’
(“For Whom Do I Toil?).”
O f course, Gordon frequently had his doubts as to the p u r ­
pose o f writing in Hebrew. But B renne r makes the instructive
point that the poem “
Ha-Emunah ve-ha-Da at”
(“Faith and Rea­
son”), which follows “For Whom Do I Toil?”20 in chronological
16. See n. 2.
17. Stanislawski, op. cit., pp. 240-242. See also pp. 220-224.
18. See n. 8.
19. Barzel in a summary o f critical views o f YaLaG
(Shirat Hibbat Zion,
p. 417)
stresses the impact o f the 1881-82 pogroms on his outlook, but the broader
issue is one o f Gordon’s temperament.
20. See Y.L. Gordon,
Kol Kitve—Shirah
(Tel-Aviv: Dvir, 1957), pp. 27-28. And
see Brenner, op. cit.,
Kol Kitve,
III, 28.